11 killed, hundreds injured in Taiwan quake (Third Lead)

Beijing, Feb 6 (IANS) At least 11 people were killed and 462 others injured in a powerful quake that hit Taiwan early on Saturday, just two days ahead of the traditional lunar New Year.

Over 170 people were still unaccounted for after the 6.7-magnitude quake hit Kaohsiung city at 3.57 a.m. (Beijing Time), Xinhua quoted China Earthquake Networks Centre as saying.

The epicentre was measured at a depth of 15 km. Local monitoring authorities put the quake at 6.4 on the Richter Scale.

In the historic city of Tainan, which bore the brunt of the quake, eight buildings collapsed and five were partially damaged.

Altogether, over 240 survivors were pulled from the rubble, rescuers said.

The Wei Guan building, left on its side with twisted metal girders exposed, was said to be home to 256 people in 92 households.

Firefighters and soldiers used ladders, excavators and other equipment to pull survivors out of rubble and through twisted windows.

So far, 172 people, including 120 adults and 52 children, were still missing.

Rescuers on site said they could hear calls for help from inside the collapsed building, but have to consolidate the collapsed building parts first before saving the rest.

They were also not sure exactly how many people were still trapped under the debris, fearing there may be more people in the building than usual as families may have housed guests to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday next week.

A lady surnamed Cheng said her brother, sister-in-law and their two daughters were still trapped.

“Their mobile phones are disconnected,” she said. “Their landline rings but no one answers.”

Apart from firefighters, the island has dispatched about 850 soldiers for the rescue, said Chen Wei-zen, head of the island’s interior affairs authority.

Tainan is the main focus of their rescue efforts, according to Chen.

While addressing a Chinese New Year gathering on Saturday morning, Premier Li Keqiang sent condolences to the victims of the disaster.

Japenese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe also sent condolences to Taiwan following the quake.

Earthquakes frequently hit Taiwan. Most of them are minor, but a 7.3-magnitude quake, the strongest to hit Taiwan in about 100 years, shook the island on September 21, 1999, leaving more than 2,000 people dead.

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